Heavenly Free From Foods

Isn’t social media amazing? A few months ago a fellow local coeliac mentioned on Instagram that there was a market stall in our local indoor market which specialised in free from foods. I’ll be honest; I don’t think I’d been into the market since I was a young child and my Nana took me to a greasy spoon cafe there! I’d almost forgotten the market was even there. So during my next trip to Hanley I popped in, and Heavenly Free From Foods is now my first stop of any visit and sometimes has justified a visit specifically to go there! So, what makes this place so amazing?

Heavenly Free From Foods

Heavenly Free From Foods

The variety

When I was first diagnosed with coeliac disease in 2009, many stores didn’t have specific free from foods as it was still an unusual thing to be looking for. My local supermarket at the time had a shelf with some gluten free bread and crackers. Fast forward almost eight years and most supermarkets have half an aisle dedicated to a variety of different free from products and even local convenience stores often have a bay of free from items. Heavenly Free From Foods takes it to a whole new level again though; a store full of free from items! The range is incredibly varied; from flours and baking goods, to pastas and ready meals, frozen foods, cupboard staples and snacks. Product ranges cover a variety of different dietary needs too, including a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan items. So many great brands are sold here; including some you can usually only buy online (Free From Fairy flour is stocked here for example!). We’ve been introduced to loads of new great foods thanks to Heavenly Free From Foods, and are trying more almost every time we go!

As a ‘free from’ store, obviously not everything stocked is gluten free, though most products are clearly labelled and the owner is incredibly knowledgeable about the products he stocks so you can just ask if you’re not sure.

The prices

Any coeliac knows a usual ‘free from’ shop is more expensive than a regular shop and it’s understandable that there is a premium due to the sourcing of ingredients and production processes. The prices at Heavenly Free From Foods reflect this of course, though the prices are comparable to supermarkets despite the fact many of the items are specialist. I know I’d far rather my money go to a local independent store than a supermarket. There are frequently offers on things too; especially items that are close to their best before date (which to be honest I usually don’t pay too much attention too for cupboard items!).

The owner

Saving the best until last! As soon as I stepped into Heavenly Free From Foods I was made to feel so welcome by the owner, Paul. He’s incredibly helpful, and he really knows his stuff when it comes to free from products (we do differ on our views of some products but I accept we all have different tastes!). He’s also just an all round great guy who loves chatting to people who visit the shop, and taking on board their suggestions for new products. I’m pleased to now call him a friend – which considering I only went to the market about 3 months ago is really saying something! Over the summer holidays his daughted is giving him a helping hand too – he was much happier about having a photo taken when she promised to be in it too! 🙂

Where is it?

Hopefully now I’ve introduced you to this great store you want to pay a visit yourself. Heavenly Free From Foods is currently in Hanley Indoor Market but will soon be moving to Merrial St in Newcastle-under-Lyme (which fortunately for me but unfortunately for my bank balance is in walking distance from our home and just a few minutes away from my gym!). If you’re in the area and looking for some interesting free from products, I highly recommend paying a visit. For more information check out the Heavenly Free From Foods Facebook page.

Whilst you’re in the area, do check out some of the other local places we love – my husband Chris recently made a list of some of the local free from offerings we enjoy – see Newcastle-under-Lyme Free From Survival Guide.

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Busy Bee Cake House, Newcastle-under-Lyme

A local blogger let me know about this great new place which has recently opened in Newcastle-under-Lyme and has gluten free cakes!

Busy Bee Cake House sign

Busy Bee Cake House sign

Busy Bee Cake House is a cafe specialising in cakes (surprise surprise!). They also serve a variety of hot and cold drinks (at very reasonable prices!) and sandwiches. They have loads of delicious looking cakes, and even better they have cakes which are suitable for a variety of different dietary requirements, including gluten free, lactose free, dairy free, vegan, paleo, diabetic friendly, and protein cakes.

We visited one afternoon after lunch, and shared two of their gluten free cakes. It was so great to be able to have a choice. We actually arrived just as they had finished a new recipe so we were the first customers to try one of the cakes (currently unnamed!).

Busy Bee Cake House

Busy Bee Cake House – unnamed cake

Busy Bee Cake House

Busy Bee Cake House – unnamed cake and Chestnut Tower

Both cakes were lovely and light (always impressive for gluten free cakes which can often be dense and crumbly). The chestnut tower was really interesting; it tasted like it had liqueur in but we were assured that was the chestnut puree. It was really delicious – the different creams and the light sponge base worked together so well. The unnamed cake (I suggested just calling it a chocolate cream cake!) was made with rice flour but as anyone who has baked with rice flour knows, this doesn’t mean it tastes like rice. It had quite a subtle chocolate flavour and was again very light. There were other gluten free cakes available too; one I’m keen to try is the vegan cheesecake which I believe is free of all main allergens and diabetic friendly too.

It’s a lovely relaxed atmosphere in the cafe; whilst we were in there there were some people eating cake and others who just came in for tea/coffee. The owners are very friendly too – they talked to us about the gluten free items, and came to ask us for feedback on the new cake as well as name suggestions. It’s a lovely light airy space with minimalist decoration (mostly branded with the Busy Bee Cake House logo or featuring photos of their celebration cakes). They can make cakes for occasions and are happy to adapt to your needs – when we were in there someone was discussing plans with them for a couple of birthday cakes. They had a Despicable Me Minion cake and a 3 tier traditional wedding cake on display when we visited and they looked great.

Busy Bee Cake House in Newcastle-under-Lyme

Busy Bee Cake House in Newcastle-under-Lyme

Busy Bee Cake House is at 6 The Midway, Newcastle-under-Lyme and is open from 10am until 6pm every day. I’m sure we’ll visit again and it’s a great place for meeting friends. Highly recommended!

Twice as Nice Bakery, Newcastle under Lyme

Don’t you just love it when a new gluten free place opens up near you? We’ve been very lucky recently – we moved in mid-December and the week before we moved a totally gluten free bakery opened within walking distance from our new house! We’ve also had a Pizza Express and Cappello Lounge which have opened in the last few weeks too. Anyway, Twice as Nice…


Twice as Nice Bakery sells only gluten free products – it’s the first of its kind in our area and the first I’ve ever been to. The owner, Laura Krippner, is passionate about gluten free baking (some of her bread recipes have won awards already and some have been shortlisted on the Free From Awards this year). She’d been wanting to open up a gluten free bakery to sell the bread as well as other gluten free produce. She stocks a variety of different types of products; both made in store and bought from other suppliers. Some highlights include:

  • Baguettes – really lovely to dip into soup – the baguettes are crisp (which I like) and the flavour is very good.
  • Anzac biscuits – a coconutty biscuit using New Zealand recipe (Laura used to live there) – I’d not tried these before and I love them!
  • Brownies – as I’ve said before on the blog, there are plenty of gluten free brownies around so for one to impress me takes a lot. Laura’s are some of the best I’ve tried in a while (and according to my partner are better than gluten filled ones he’s had recently!).
  • Gluten Free Oatcakes – extremely popular! Oatcakes (the savoury pancake style, not the crackers!) are a North Staffordshire tradition and being able to buy gluten free ones is fabulous. Twice as Nice stock Weston Coyney Gluten Free Oatcakes. I’ve bought the ready made ones as well as the mix to make our own (blog post coming on this!).
  • Voakes pies – I’ve tried a couple of pies and a quiche, all of which were great.

I also tried sourdough bread last time I visited, which I haven’t tried before. I tried a small sample and have to admit I had another piece before I left! I’ve tended to visit later in the day so often miss out on some of the freshly baked breads, cakes, and pizettes but I’ll be trying more in future I’m sure.

I can’t put into words how fantastic it is to be able to visit a bakery and know I can eat anything I want. I’m so used to looking out for one or two things I can eat in restaurants, shops etc. and even in the free from section of the supermarket I have to check as obviously the products aren’t just gluten free so some might be dairy free but have gluten in. It’s so refreshing to be able to visit somewhere that I know is totally safe and that I can choose whatever I’d like and not have to check the labels or ask any awkward questions about the ingredients. It does of course mean each visit costs a fair bit as I want to try absolutely everything!


In addition to it being such a great place for coeliacs to get food, it’s also a really lovely environment in the bakery. Laura is so passionate and it’s lovely to chat with her about her latest experiments and creations. I’ve also met some great people whilst I’ve been in there and always feel a sense of mutual understanding when you meet others who are following a gluten free diet. Some have shared tips and product recommendations, and others have shared their stories (I bumped into Sarah Leanne from Growing Butterfly one time and we got chatting about blogging). Laura has recently added tables and chairs so you can now enjoy a cuppa and a snack whilst you’re in there 🙂


I’m so pleased Laura took the plunge and opened a gluten free bakery in Staffordshire, and I’m pleased it’s so popular (I’ve never been in without there being other customers too). It’s great to have somewhere like this in my local community, and I hope it will bring others to the area to experience some gluten free delights (if you’re ever visiting North Staffs you have to try some gluten free oatcakes!).

Twice as Nice Bakery is at 3 Fogg Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs. It’s open every day other than Sunday. Full opening hours and further information is available on the website and Facebook page.

I highly recommend visiting if you’re nearby – maybe I’ll see you in there! 🙂

 


 

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Cappello Lounge, Newcastle-under-Lyme

A couple of weeks ago a new cafe/bar/restaurant (well, it calls itself a lounge!) opened up in the centre of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Cappello Lounge is part of a chain of Lounges. We saw it being furnished and thought it looked interesting, and then I happened to walk past on opening day so I decided to take a nosy.

Cappello Lounge

Cappello Lounge

The menu was displayed outside and I was so excited to discover those two special words every coeliac wants to see on an interesting looking menu – ‘gluten free’! I went in to ask if I could look at the gluten free menu, and was given one to look at as well as a printed one to take away with me. The staff were really friendly and reassured me that they have plenty of gluten free options.

Cappello Lounge Gluten Free Menu

Cappello Lounge Gluten Free Menu

Fast forward two days and I was back to check it out properly, with my partner and our friends in tow. We’d been for a walk in the bracing cold (there was still some snow on the ground at the time) so were ready for a comforting meal. I chose the Hero Hamburger and was delighted to discover that the fries are cooked in a separate fryer so that they are kept gluten free. Burger and fries? Yes please! Whilst I waited for my burger I enjoyed a cherry juice (Frobishers) and soaked in the atmosphere. Despite every table being in use when we arrived, it didn’t feel too crowded and I felt very relaxed. It has some quirky decoration and interior design features so we discussed those (and those who are fortunate enough to have phones with batteries that don’t die after less than an hour took some photos!).

It didn’t take long for our food to arrive, though mine was a few minutes late as they came to apologise that they’d made a mistake and accidentally contaminated my burger so they were starting another from scratch for me – I was really impressed that they’d gone to so much effort to make sure my meal was gluten free. Not long after everyone else I was tucking into my burger too. It came in a gluten free bun which was soft and didn’t crumble – it was almost like real bread! (You’ll know what I mean if you’ve tried gluten free bread rolls!). The Hero Hamburger has chorizo, cheddar, fried red onion, chimmicurri, chipotle mayo and marinated chilli so it’s certainly not short on flavour. I loved it but on my second visit (yes it was so good I went back the following week and had another of the same!) I gave some to my partner and he said it had too many flavours for him; he loved his chicken burger though! The fries are particularly good too – lovely and crunchy but still soft fluffy potato inside. Just writing about it is making my mouth water – it really is delicious.

Gluten Free Hero Hamburger at Cappello Lounge

Gluten Free Hero Hamburger at Cappello Lounge

On the first visit I also had the gluten free brownie for dessert, which was nice but not amazing (I think we’re a bit spoilt for gluten free brownies so I’m a tough one to impress!). Others ordered chocolate brownie too and I was surprised to see the gluten free brownie was different to the regular brownie as most places just have one brownie that happens to be gluten free, but here they have separate ones. Mine was OK, though I wish they had another gluten free dessert option (crumble? cheesecake?) as gluten free brownies are very common and get a bit boring.

I’ve yet to try anything else from the gluten free menu but there is plenty to choose from. I’m planning to go for brunch one day, and I’d definitely like to try the Tapas too. They also have some amazing sounding cocktails so I may also have to try one of those one evening.

Cappello Lounge is one of those places that really does feel like a home from home – you can go there for breakfast, lunch, a coffee, snack, cocktails, or an evening meal, and not feel at all out of place for any of the above. They’re open from 9am each day until late. They have board games you can use, children’s activities, and dogs are welcome there too. I don’t know if there are any local craft groups (something to investigate!) but if so this is the perfect place for that sort of informal gathering.

I’m sure we’ll be regular visitors to Cappello Lounge and I would highly recommend it if you’re in the Newcastle-under-Lyme area (luckily for us it’s walking distance from our new home!).